Sunday, September 28, 2014

What's Cooking? Basundi, The Gujarati Classic Slow Cooked Dessert.

   Dealing with the new house and a whole bunch of other stuff I'll get into later has been a lot of work. Last week finally, the last of the boxes left the living room and we started to get an idea of just what goes where, and also what that "what" should be. There's also the issue of how the house works with people besides ourselves in it. One of the things that appealed to us about the place was how it would work for entertaining. The way we designed the place was with friends and family in mind and we were eager to take it for a small test spin. Each weekend we've been having a few friends over to see how everything works.
   One of the major changes has been in the dining room table. Instead of the long  reclaimed barnwood table we had, (now out on the deck) there is a new hammered copper dining room table, square shaped that seats 8 or 10.

Turns out people like that shape better than hollering down a long table. But what to put on that table? Last weekend moving with baby steps we had a few people over for dessert. After 3 months away from them I wanted to get my mitts on my clay pots again.

What better way to break in the table and re-christen one of my clay pots then with famed Gujarati chef Tarla Dalals recipe for the slow cooked milk pudding known as  Basundi.

    Basundi and variations of it are found all over India. The best way to think about it is as a slow cooked rice pudding.... without the rice. It's one of the easiest recipes you'll find anywhere. With just a few ingredients it's simple in preparation. The thing that makes Basundi special is that it's true slow cooking. With a little bit of effort and bit more investment of time, you can easily make this Indian classic. With the weather starting to change around here, it's the perfect dessert to make on a cool and rainy fall afternoon.


Here's What You Need:
2 litres of milk (full fat)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup chopped pistachio
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 tsp saffron

Here's What To Do:
Pour the milk into a wide bottomed pot, or a clay pot.

Turn the flame up.

 Bring the milk to a boil.

When it boils turn the heat down to low and cook it until the volume is halved. Keep a spoon nearby and stir the milk occasionally so nothing sticks.

If you're using a clay pot, always use a silicone or wooden spoon to keep from damaging the clay.
When the milk is reduced by half you're ready for the next step.
Add in the sugar.

Keep cooking it on a low flame and keep stirring until the milk starts to thicken.

Remember to scrape down the sides of the pan as you stir to prevent sticking, scalding, or burning. This should take about 25 minutes.
When the milk has thickened, add in the ground cardamom.

Stir the cardamom in well. Keep cooking and stirring for another 20 minutes.

When the basundi has thickened, it's ready to serve. You can serve it warm or let it chill a while and serve it cold as I did.
To chill it, take it off the flame and let it cool a bit.

When it's cooled enough, pop it in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.
Before serving, toast the saffron in a small cast iron pan, then crumble it.
Set it aside.
Chop the pistachios.

Ladle the Basundi into small serving cups. I used katoris.

Crumble a bit of the toasted saffron on top of each serving, followed by a bit of chopped pistachios, and a few slivered almonds.

 Serve it up.

I served it with a hot unsweetened spiced tea. Basundi is thick and rich so you don't need large servings to satisfy.  This recipe made 8 servings.

   It felt great to get back behind the stove working the clay pots again. Now that I have them out of their boxes, and safely stowed in the kitchen it's time to break out the dal. Fall's a coming as is my first crop of pineapple guava.

A spicy sorbet, or a chutney, I haven't quite decided. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pigs + Figs = Pig Newtons. A Grown Up Make-Ahead Party Food.

   When I was a kid one of my favorite cookies was a Fig Newton. I didn't get them very often as Fran wasn't big into sweets and when we did get cookies they were usually her trademarked homemade Butter, aka poker-chip, cookies. Once in a while a bag of Fig Newtons would find it's way into the house usually picked up by my dad at the day-old store on the way home from work. Of course, being dad he got the lions share. I remember him sitting in the kitchen, in a cloud of Camel smoke, a plate of Fig Newtons and a cold glass of milk in front of him listening to the Giants on KSFO. The kitchen was off limits territory to kids during the game but once in a while I'd sneak in and he'd toss me a bone, or rather a Fig Newton.

   I've thought of baking my own Fig Newtons over the years, but somehow I never seemed to get around to it, then last year Alan had the idea that instead of Fig Newtons, why not bake "Pig Newtons"? Pig Newtons? Really? All I could think of was this.

 So yeah, I was gonna bake a "cookie" made of figs and bacon. Right. I've been eating vegan for the last several months since my tangle with campylobacter, so yeah I'm gonna bake a bacon cookie.

   I baked a bacon cookie, so shoot me.

   Another thing we have here in Sonoma is excellent local bacon. Usually I have some home made in our freezer, but with the move and renovation I just haven't gotten my bacon on lately so I got some of our locally made Applewood smoked bacon and once again, pilfered Needlemans' fig tree. Pig Newtons were on their way to moving from just a bacon fever dream to reality. After all, I see all this bacon fig jam out there, it had to be just one simple step to make some of that and wrap it in a savory shortbread crust. It was.

   There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can make your own bacon fig jam, or buy some. I'll tell you here how to make the jam and the cookie dough, then you can figure out what you have to time for. Let's Newton!

Pig Newtons


Here's What You Need:  


 For the Jam:
1 lb Applewood smoked bacon
1 onion chopped
1 lb of fresh figs
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup water
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
2 Tbs bacon grease.

For the Cookie:
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz)
3 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp chopped  fresh thyme
1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 1/4 flour
1 to 3 Tbs water (I usually wind up using 3)

Here's What To Do:
Wash, dry, and quarter the figs.

Set them aside.
Chop the onion and set it aside.
Chop your bacon into small pieces.

Place a cast iron pan on the fire. When it's hot, add in the chopped bacon.

Render the bacon down. You're going to cook it so that it goes from this....

to this...

Scoop the rendered crispy bacon onto a plate covered with a paper towel to blot up the grease.
Take the hot bacon fat in the skillet and save 2 Tbs of it. Pour the rest of it off for use another time.
Pour the 2 Tbs of bacon grease back into the pan.

Add in your chopped onion.

Saute the onions until they turn soft.
Now add the quartered figs into the pan.

Stir them around and add in the brown sugar...

...the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and water.

Add in the ginger, chili, and the rest of the spices.

Kashmiri chili.

Finally, add in the crispy bacon pieces.

Stir everything around. Bring the mixture to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer the bacon fig jam for about 1 hour.

The jam is done when it thickens and turns dark.

Take the jam off the flame and let it cool a bit.
Move it to a food processor and grind it to a thick jammy texture.
Now, set it aside (it'll keep in the fridge in an air tight container for about 2 weeks) and make your cookies whenever you want.

Cookie Dough:
 This cookie dough can also be made a few days ahead.

Bring 1 stick of unsalted butter to room temperature
Cut it into pieces, set it aside.

Measure out 3 oz of grated Parmesan, set it aside.

Chop the sage and thyme and set them aside.

Put the butter into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, turn it to low and blend it until the butter is creamy.
When it's creamy add in the Parmesan cheese, salt...

...sage and thyme.

Add in the flour.

Add each of these one at a time until each one is thoroughly blended in.
Finally add in the water to help the dough stick together.
I usually wind up adding in 3 Tbs, but go one at a time until it's the texture you need.
Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a round.

Flatten it into a round.

Wrap in in plastic wrap and pop it into the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

You can make the dough ahead of time also. It'll harden up in the fridge so let it soften a bit before you work with it if you leave it there for very long.

Making The Cookie:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick.

When the dough is rolled out, square it off, and cut it into wide strips.

Spread some bacon jam down the center of each strip.

Fold one half of the strip over the jam.

Then fold the other side over.

Flip the roll to the unfolded side, and cut them into bite sized Pig Newtons.

Place the pig newtons on a silicone mat on a baking sheet, or just parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Once made they can be  stored in the fridge like this for a few hours before baking. Just cover them lightly with cling film.
Of course you can also bake and eat them right away!
Put them into your 350 degree oven.

Bake them for about 25 minutes.
Ah, the siren smell of bacon....

It seems that this is what oven windows were made for.
When the Pg Newtons have turned golden they're done.

Serve them piping hot.

   Last night our friend Marie, who works for Patz and Hall Winery here in Sonoma brought over some of their Jenkins Ranch Pinot Noir. Our guests absolutely loved it. The perfect match I was told.

   Pigs and Figs, made for each other.

Coming up next, a return to Indian food,  with the classic Gujarati dessert Basundi. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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